Top 5 Tips on How To Pitch A TV Show & Shatter Expectations

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Learning how to pitch a TV show is very similar to playing major league baseball because being in a room full of studio or production house executives can sometimes feel a lot like being up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded…at the World Series!  Yes, it’s that serious and just think about it for a minute:  your idea about a guy who is a criminal by night and family man by day, just might turn into “The Sopranos” or “Power” or “Empire”.  Honestly, the pitch for these three iconic series could have possibly been very similar, but of course, with their own signature twists.  And the “twist” is in the details, which means that when it’s your time to stand on the pitcher’s mound and throw a fastball to a studio exec who has the power to greenlight a project and change the very trajectory of your life, you need to be prepared to wow them with a memorable curve ball.

Acquiring a pitch meeting (and learning how to pitch a TV show in general) is no small task and it’s definitely major league territory.  Perfecting a pitch is more than just articulating your amazing idea; it is also the art of knowing what not to say, which connects back to the title of this article.  I know it sounds a little dramatic, but just remember that every great television show or movie started out as a simple idea that was pitched to the right person at the right time and in the right way.

We hope these simple tips on how to pitch a TV show will optimize every second and help you hit a homerun!

1.) BE PREPARED WITH A CHEAT-SHEET

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Before you attempt to secure a pitch meeting, please practice your pitch enough times so that you know every aspect of the story backwards and forwards.  You need to be overly-prepared because if you’re asked a question, you can’t afford to be mumbling nonsensically and shuffling through your presentation trying to find the answer.  If that happens, you will lose credibility and any momentum that may have been fueling your pitch.  To avoid this potentially embarrassing and avoidable foul ball, create a one-page “cheat sheet” filled with bullet points of pertinent facts or phrases that you can easily reference.

2.) DON’T TRASH-TALK OTHER TV SHOWS

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We’re sure that your idea is great, but please don’t compare it to similar projects in a negative light.  Studio and production executives work in numerous jobs over the course of their careers and you just never know what projects that they may have previously developed, produced or championed.  And if it happens to be the one that you’re bashing, we can guarantee that you won’t have a snowballs chance in Arizona of getting your project produced at or sold to that company.  In general, you should always put a positive spin on your pitch and any materials referenced.

3.) COMPARE YOUR SHOW TO SIMILAR, SUCCESSFUL SHOWS

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When you want to convince a studio or production company exec that your idea is the next big thing, shy away from comparing it to a show that has been canceled or is no longer playing in theatres.  For instance, if your pitch is a music competition show, it would be a major faux pas to compare it to “Rising Star”, “X Factor” or “Nashville Star” because all three of these shows have been cancelled and no longer airing original episodes.  However, there is a UK version of “X Factor” that airs on “AXS TV”.  And even if you do use the name of a popular show that is currently on TV or in movie theatres, don’t overdo the comparison.  Just keep it simple and say something like the following: “Like ‘The Voice’, my show also has a very unique selection process.”  That was concise and just a casual reference to let the execs know that you’re aware of what’s trending in popularity and ratings.

4.) DON’T ARGUE YOUR POINT (EVEN IF YOU’RE RIGHT)

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If you disagree with something an exec you’re pitching to has said about your idea, don’t start an argument to try and prove your point.  We’re not saying don’t speak up and clarify a point here and there, but to start an all out war of words with the person who has the power to say “yes” or “no” (or even worse “get out!”) is not a smart thing to do. Pitching ideas can sometimes feel like an exercise in semantics and there may be times when the exec or producer you’re pitching to just doesn’t get it, like it or want to move forward.  But, the truth is that pitching is also riddled with rejection and you’re going to experience a lot of “no’s” along your hopeful pathway to a “yes”.  So, keep your ego in check and remember that it’s not personal; it’s just part of the business of this business.

5.) KNOW YOUR TARGET’S PROGRAMMING SCHEDULE

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You should study for your pitch meeting in the same way that you would for an academic test in school or a job interview.  There’s nothing worse than having a studio exec ask you if you’ve seen their shows or movies and you reply, “No, but I heard they’re really good.”  That’s just unacceptable.  As soon as you secure a pitch meeting, you should take the time to create a list of that network’s or studio’s top-rated shows and then make a point to watch the current slate of projects that the respective network or movie studio produces.  If you’re meeting with the development team at ABC, you should know the names, plot lines and stars of their hit shows from “Scandal” and “How To Get Away With Murder” to “Modern Family” and “black-ish”.   Remember that how to pitch a TV show is a game of strategy, skill and timing and if you don’t want to strike out, you’ve got to be prepared at all times.

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